THE BLOG
08/23/2012 01:51 pm ET | Updated Oct 23, 2012

How to Analyze Your Website Traffic

For many of us, traffic and website analytics is a very foreign idea. But understanding traffic and reading website analytics reports doesn't have to be a complicated endeavor. First up, let's break down the terminology:

Page views: Each time someone lands on your site (when they load one of your pages) it generates a page view. Keep in mind that this tallies regardless of who visits or how many times they've been to the site. It sounds like a bad measurement of traffic and to some degree it is. We all love returning visitors but most of us really care about those valuable first time folks.

Visits: This measure shares how many users have spent time on your website, regardless of the number of pages each user views.

Unique visitors: This is an important stat and as the name implies, this metric counts only the unique users who visit the site. If a particular visitor comes to the site every day, it still only counts as one visit.

Pages/visit: This metric shows you how many pages a visitor perused during each session, the higher this number, the better.

Average visit duration: How much time do users spend on the site during each visit? While you want someone to spend a long time on a site, the average time spent is generally three to five minutes and sometimes less. Obviously longer is better, but the only site in the world that gets massive visit duration is currently Facebook, with an average of 20 minutes per visit.

Bounce rate: This number indicated people who "bounce" off of the page. So, someone visits and then decides they are either in the wrong place or you've sent them into "surf shock" and they leave. Generally the lower the number the better, but the average bounce rate is around 50 to 59 percent.

% new visits: This measure is the percentage of your traffic from first-time users who have never been to the site before. If you're eager to get repeat people to your site (and this will often depend on the nature of your business) you'll want this number lower than your repeating visitor number.

Understanding Google Analytics

These days, most websites use a service called Google Analytics to measure traffic. It's considered by most web designers to be the gold standard of measurement and it's also free which is great.

Getting Google Analytics is easy, you can just register on the site and it will give you a snippet of code that will go on each page of your website. Your web person can do this if it wasn't installed when your site was built. Most hosting companies come with a C-panel backend that measures traffic, even so I highly recommend getting Google Analytics for accuracy and other reasons you'll see in a minute.

Once you set up Google Analytics, give it a few days to gather data, once you do you'll start to see numbers appear on your dashboard. Google Analytics continues to update their system and recently launched a beta version of real time traffic. Once you're logged in you can find it on the left hand side of the page.

Real Time Traffic

I tend to watch these real-time traffic numbers pretty closely. It's also a great tool if you're on top of a promotion, you can see what kind of traffic you're driving to your website, in real time!

Getting to Know Your Data

When you first start looking through the numbers, you'll want to get a sense of some of the numbers we described above: Page Views, Bounce Rate, etc. If you're worried that your bounce rate is too high, consult your web person to see if there's anything you can do to lower it.

One of the areas I spend a lot of time on is the Traffic from All Sources so I can gauge what's coming from where. Not only will this help me as I'm creating referring traffic from various channels, but it also helps me know what's work and what isn't. You can find this area here. Click on Traffic Sources and then All Traffic.

Measuring Social Media

One of the most exciting additions to Google Analytics has been their tracking of social media. This is a fantastic tool lets you see how much of your traffic is coming from social. So, what's a good mix? I think half of your traffic should come from social media, the rest should come organically from Google. Here's a snapshot of what these two graphs look like. Once you do that, you'll see two sets of bars/graphs indicating traffic patterns.

The top bar shows you the social media referrals, with a comparison chart to all traffic, which is super helpful. You don't need to do anything to set this up. Google tracks social traffic automatically.

Measuring AdWords

Google Analytics can also connect to your AdWords campaign, allowing you to measure how your online ad campaign is performing. This will allow you to track how your ads are doing and whether they are bringing you vistors. If you run ads on your site, click Content > AdSense > Overview to see which pages on your site are earning the most revenue (and how much). You'll need to link them together in the AdSense tool first.

How much traffic you get and how well it's converting will depend on your reach and your website, but knowing these numbers is important. Keep in mind that the importance of each category will depend largely on the industry you're in as I mentioned previously. If you want lots of returning visitors, then the percentage of new visits number will need to be lower. If you're looking for lots of new traffic then Unique Visitors is what you need to pay attention to.

Getting to know your traffic is not only important, but mandatory if you're going to know how effective your online marketing is. Also, knowing your Google Analytics numbers will also show you if there's a problem on your site, like low conversion which could be because of a broken page or broken link.